I just got back from spending 10 days in the Phoenix area with my family. Leaving Vancouver (my bike) behind and leaving DC (the city in which I live) behind are always a little difficult, especially this year, when after heaps of schoolwork, I finally had time to go riding and the city was looking especially nice for the holidays.
And yet family matters demanded a long trip to the Grand Canyon State, so off I went.
I have long been highly, highly critical of Phoenix for being overly conservative and also run by people who are, frankly, bat-shit insane (*cough Joe Arpaio and Jan Brewer cough cough*), and this break was no different. After the Newtown shootings, the attorney general of Arizona decided that one person in every school (preferably the principal) needs to have a gun because the state budget is just too stretched to stick a police officer in each school. The logic behind this thinking entirely escapes me because, as someone who is vehemently pro gun control and also a human with basic moral principles, I don't believe that guns and kids mix well. Guns don't belong in schools. Period. Anyone who argues differently is missing the point.
Anyway. The point of this post was not to make soapbox speeches, yet here I am, making soapbox speeches. Believe it or not, the point of this post relates to bicycles.
Because I have been so dead-set on hating Phoenix for the last, oh, six years or so, I have drastically and mistakenly overlooked many of the bright points of the city. Specifically--there are a LOT of cyclists there! Maybe not in South Chandler, where my parents live, because it's pretty far away from anything, but that doesn't mean the city hasn't built the infrastructure for them. In Chandler and well beyond, there are bicycle lanes everywhere, and when you hit the suburbs closer to Phoenix and, of course, Phoenix itself, there are LOTS of cyclists around! I saw people whizzing by on intense-looking mountain bikes, I saw a man teetering to and fro as he carried a large sack of groceries home on his steel 1980s Schwinn, I saw a girl on her single-speed with a Chrome messenger bag pedaling along in cut-offs. And honestly, why wouldn't you want to bike there? It's completely flat, so a commute of 15 or 20 miles couldn't be so bad, and if you're into mountain biking, you're absolutely in the right spot for it. I don't know if it would be possible to live car-free in the area, but it was heartening to see so many people out on two wheels. So heartening, in fact, that it was torture, and I longed to have my bike with me.
To me, a love a biking means a love of the environment, and in the smog and humidity-filled Valley of the Sun, there is absolutely a need for more people to care about the unbelievable natural desert landscape in which they live (fly over the state sometime and you'll see what I mean). So I tend to equate biking with liberalism, because biker-friendly areas tend to be more liberal. Most cyclists I know are vehement liberals, but maybe that's just because I live in DC and don't get out much in the way of the political spectrum. But anyway, my initial thought, for whatever reason, was that maybe this massive amount of biking means that the citizens of Phoenix are less crazy than the people that govern them.
I realize, though, that this doesn't matter (it would be nice, but it doesn't matter). If you're on a bike, it doesn't matter who you are or which way you vote, it just means that you like to bike! If more people are biking, the government, no matter which way they swing, will need to start responding to this growing population, and ultimately, that means a safer biking environment for everyone. My dad used to tell stories of biking around the city when he was a kid, and I had naively and blindly figured that was a time long past. But apparently I was very wrong. So, citizens of Phoenix, I stand corrected, and I look forward to riding with you at some point in the future.
I will say, however, that whoever is put in charge of installing bike racks has some serious studying up to do. I saw this at least three times:
We won't get into that right now. Never mind that a 4-bike parking capacity has been reduced to one, MAYBE two if you can squeeze one between the rack and the building. Baby steps.
My one question to Phoenicians and anyone else living in a deathly climate--what on earth do you do in the summer months?